Bruins

Haggerty: B's prove they've got the right plan

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Haggerty: B's prove they've got the right plan

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

VANCOUVER Its a sobering dose of reality when a team plays the game according to the exact blueprint it's mapped out for itself to win a playoff series . . . and then loses.

Or is it?

The Canucks got the only goal, and the last laugh, in the closing 18 seconds and captured Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, 1-0, Wednesday night at Rogers Arena.

Still, the Bruins checked off many of the things they hoped to achieve against the seemingly invincible Canucks.

I think we played a real good road game, to be honest with you. To be in the situation we were after two periods" -- a 0-0 tie -- "I didn't mind it, especially against this hockey club, said coach Claude Julien. I thought our penalty kill did a great job against their power-play. Timmy Thomas made the big saves when he had to. For two periods I was pretty pleased.

Obviously, in the third period they were the better team and they ended up scoring that goal. It got away from us, but we still got an opportunity here in the next game to hopefully get . . . the home-ice advantage.

Thomas had a magnificent game and gave Vancouver something to think about over the course of the next few days.

He finished with 33 saves and was at his athletic best in the first period when the Canucks sent a flurry of shots his way. He impressed again in the third period when he made 13 stops as Vancouver carried the play in Bostons zone.

And that -- outstanding goaltending from Thomas -- is part of the B's blueprint for the series.

Canucks players were getting behind the Bruins defensive layers, but Thomas stoned Jannik Hansen cold on a breakaway and turned away Maxim Lapierres quick redirect from the slot.

Thomas also had some good fortune, of course. Alex Edler rang the crossbar on a shot fired from the high slot area that rocketed past the goalie's shoulders on its way to smacking the pipe.

But all crossbars aside, Thomas had the Canucks shaking their heads and murmuring to themselves more than a little bit headed into the final minutes of the third period.

Thats exactly where the Bs need to have Vancouver's heads -- simultaneously amazed and frustrated -- if theyre going to bring the Cup back to Boston.

Thomas' performance in Game 1 is a good indication that it can be done. After all, if Thomas and the Bs can hold back the mighty Canucks offense for 59-plus minutes of an adrenaline-juiced playoff game once, they can certainly do it again.

The Bruins need their goaltender to again be the superhuman force he was on Wednesday night, and theyll need even more of the gutsy play around him in their own zone.

But was more than just Thomas on Wednesday night:

Containing the Sedin twins and holding the rugged Ryan Kesler off the board was the result of pure Bruins hockey for the better part of three periods.

The Bruins handed Vancouver six man advantages in Game 1, but somehow kept the Canucks' vaunted power play off the board. Dan Hamhuis and Sami Salo were able to fire away from the point positions, but there wasnt much there for the Sedin twins or Kesler once the game turned to special teams.

Most surprisingly (and something the Bruins may not have planned for), the Canucks were willing to mix it up and engage in plenty of scrums after whistles. They were happy to poke the bear in the cage, just as they did against the Blackhawks and Sharks in earlier rounds.

Hamhuis upended Milan Lucic with a hip check in front of the benches in the second period that sent Lucics legs square over his head. It was a signature hit during an intense playoff game, but it also resulted in the Vancouver defenseman limping off the ice in pain, never to return.

Lucic and Kevin Bieksa tangled in front of the net on several occasions, and Alexandre Burrows even somehow enraged the normally serene Patrice Bergeron by biting through his glove and bloodying the centers finger.

Though they didn't expect it, the Bruins took Vancouver's grit as a good sign of things, since they like that kind of scrappy game.

Theyre a good team and so are we, said Bruinsdefenseman Johnny Boychuk. It was more physical than we expected, butthats our style of hockey. Its fine.

The Bruins demonstrated they could hang with the Canucks, and they proved they're capable of beating them. Now they have to prove they can actually do it.

We played hard. All you guys in the media are doubting us and I think we showed today that we could play with the Canucks, said Milan Lucic. We worked hard. We played hard. But in order to get a win in this building were going to have to work a little harder.

Weve watched them play as many games as we could. Theyve always played a physical game. Just look at the last series against San Jose. They went right after Douglas Murray, and Joe Thornton and Ryan Clowe and all those guys. We knew it would be the same, and its going to be a hard-fought series.

Theres no doubt its going to be a hard-fought series after witnessing how things went down in Game 1.

The question now becomes: Can the Bruins be better?

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

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Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – While it’s still early in the careers of all the young Bruins rookies making their way this season, it sure looks like 22-year-old Danton Heinen is among the B’s youngsters that are here to stay. The former University of Denver standout didn’t make the cut at the end of training camp this season and he failed early last year when it was clear he wasn’t ready during an eight-game audition with the big club.

But Heinen continued to look ready while scoring a pair of goals and three points in the three games on a pivotal road trip through California last week, and is now tied for fifth on the Bruins in points despite missing four games in the AHL. In all, Heinen has four goals and 10 points along with a plus-4 rating in 15 games this season, and is on pace for a really strong 21 goals and 52 points in his first full year.

This has been a really nice step forward for Heinen after being a point-per-game player for Providence during their playoff run last spring.

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“Last year’s playoff did a lot for him. When I saw him playing there, he was a different player than when he’d left [Boston],” said Bruce Cassidy. “There was a willingness to stay in the battle and his growth when it comes to winning pucks…you’ve seen it here. A lot of the things he’s down well are his second and third efforts on the puck where last year I thought he was pushed off the puck pretty easily [at the NHL level].”

There could be a period when his offense slows down or some other part of his game drags his minutes down, but right now he looks like he’s well on his way to establishing himself in a key role with the Black and Gold. The difference has been Heinen increasing his speed and also adding a little more tenacity to the skill and offense package that he was always bringing to the table.  

“I don’t want to say that because when we get our guys healthy then we’ll see where we’re at,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if Heinen was a keeper at the NHL level at this point. “But I think he’s certainly shown he’s a much more consistent player than he was last year. He’s probably a bit ahead of the other younger guys because he has gone through a bit of it [at the pro level]. The fact that he’s been able to play in a lot of different situations, play left or right wing, and moved up in the lineup while being very effective with [Sean] Kuraly and [Tim] Schaller down in the lineup, as a coach it’s to have a guy like that who can move around and fit in a lot of different places.

“So he’s certainly helped himself [to stay in the NHL]. I think it’s too early to say if he’s here for good, but I don’t envision him leaving [Boston] anytime soon with the way that he’s played.”

Only time and consistently good play will allow the playmaking Heinen to truly lock up his spot on the NHL roster, but it’s increasingly difficult to envision any scenario where the fifth-round pick isn’t playing an increasingly important role for the Bruins. 

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Bruins' Backes returns to ice after surgery for diverticulitis

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Bruins' Backes returns to ice after surgery for diverticulitis

BRIGHTON -- In a development that was certainly much sooner than originally anticipated, David Backes has returned to the ice just a matter of weeks after having 10 inches of colon removed during surgery for diverticulitis. It remains to be seen how gradual a process it will be for the 33-year-old to actually return to game action given his original timetable for recovery was eight weeks following the early November procedure, but it seems like it might end up being ahead of the two months Backes was initially expected to be sidelined. 

For his part, Backes was happy to be back skating with his teammates and pushing his recovering body after feeling pretty sluggish for the first few days following surgery. He confirmed he’d been skating for a couple of days while the team was on the West Coast, but Monday was his first team doing anything post-surgery with the rest of the team. 

“It’s good to be back with the guys and to be around the room, and to have seen the kind of resiliency that these guys showed on the road trip. The back half of the road trip was impressive,” said Backes, who has an assist in five games with the Bruins before succumbing to the surgery. “To be on the ice and moving around after sitting around doing nothing for too long where you don’t think you’re going to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it feels good. 

“The doc’s advice is that if it doesn’t hurt then I can keep moving forward and add more of a workload on, so that’s the update for today. It’s still non-contact, but we’ll keep moving along and hopefully I’ll be back doing what I love to do on a regular basis. I haven’t been notified that the timeline has changed at all, so I’m just going to keep putting in the work. The more I seem to do the work the better it is, and I seem to be able to do a little more each day. So those are all positive signs.”

For the Bruins it’s clearly a morale booster to see the big power forward back doing regular hockey activities, and serving notice that he’ll be bringing his size, strength, leadership and physicality back to a B’s team that definitely needs him. Clearly the return of another high-end forward would also immensely help a Bruins team that’s still very undermanned up front, but it would appear there will be some other B’s forwards getting back prior to Backes. 

Brad Marchand and Ryan Spooner appear poised to return to full practice on Tuesday with a possible return to the lineup not too far beyond that after all three injured forwards took part in Monday’s optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE